Eleven reasons to AVOID investing in Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks

Of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 11 of them would actually be worth less or just about the same as they were 10 years ago (including dividends!).

When I first started writing this blog post, I was going to call it “How to Invest Safely in Stocks.” My second recommendation was that beginners should start with a handful of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Once I started digging through the numbers, though, I was a startled at what I found. Apparently, the blue-chip stocks aren’t the no-brainers most investors like to think they are.

Need proof? Check out this chart I put together of the 10-year returns for each of the 30 Dow Jones stocks:

Company 10-Year Stock Return 10-Year Dividend Return on $1,000 investment $1,000 is now worth
3M Company +46.6% $590.94 $3,458 (aided by a stock split)
Alcoa Inc. -68.1% $134.46 $449.82
American Express Company +41.47% $122.40 $1,514
AT&T Inc. -31.8% $357.12 $1,024
Bank of America Corp. -51.8% $718.58 $1,109
The Boeing Company +12.54% $218.16 $1,311
Caterpillar Inc. +208.7% $787.17 $7,093 (aided by a stock split)
Chevron Corporation +113.9% $794.85 $4,791
Cisco Systems, Inc. -7% $7.20 $933
The Coca-Cola Company +45.2% $284.76 $1,734
du Pont +11.1% $372.72 $1,462
Exxon Mobil Corporation +82% $319.44 $2,086
General Electric Company -61.9% $200.4 $572
Hewlett-Packard Company +2% $123 $1,129
The Home Depot, Inc. -32.7% $117.58 $780
Intel Corporation -29.7% $136.54 $825
International Business Machines Corp. +57.1% $127.26 $1,605
Johnson & Johnson +20.8% $257.22 $1,426
JPMorgan Chase & Co. -16.1% $273.12 $1,107
Kraft Foods Inc. +8.7% $283.34 $1,339
McDonald’s Corporation +198.4% $387.25 $3,351
Merck & Co., Inc. -51.2% $218.70 $698
Microsoft Corporation -20.1% $416.64 $1,998
Pfizer Inc. -56.3% $196.56 $634
The Procter & Gamble Company +68.6% $607.79 $3,884 (aided by a stock split)
The Travelers Companies, Inc. +11.8% $120.34 $1,206
United Technologies Corporation +94.9% $529.54 $4,305
Verizon Communications Inc. -31.5% $305.33 $988
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. +4.7% $130.29 $1,141
The Walt Disney Company +25.1% $110.20 $1,330

What’s startling is this: of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 11 of them would actually be worth less or just about the same as they were 10 years ago (including dividends!). That’s remarkable considering I didn’t factor in inflation, which have averaged 2.4 percent over the past decade (per FinTrend.com).

That means your odds of throwing a dart at a list of the Dow stocks and hitting a winner are only around 63 percent. That’s not much better than going to the casino and counting a few cards at the blackjack table.

Before you toss your hands up and cash in your IRA for guns and ammo, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the average return on $1,000 for the 30 Dow component stocks was $1,842 over the past 10 years. Indeed, a $1,000 investment in Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) would be worth $7,093 today. That’s not bad, but seeing the returns from a company like GE, which has crumpled more than 60 percent over the past 10 years is scary. And this year hasn’t been kind to the Dow, either. Take a peek at the YTD returns on each of the component stocks:

Company Ticker YTD Return Dividend Yield
3M Company NYSE:MMM -10.8% 2.86%
Alcoa Inc. NYSE:AA -27% 1.07%
American Express Company NYSE:AXP +3.9% 1.61%
AT&T Inc. NYSE:T -3.17% 6.05%
Bank of America Corp. NYSE:BAC -51.8% 0.62%
The Boeing Company NYSE:BA -10.5% 2.88%
Caterpillar Inc. NYSE:CAT -14.7% 2.3%
Chevron Corporation NYSE:CVX +2.25% 3.34%
Cisco Systems, Inc. NYSE:CSCO -25.8% 1.6%
The Coca-Cola Company NYSE:KO +2.28% 2.79%
du Pont NYSE:DD -12.1% 3.74%
Exxon Mobil Corporation NYSE:XOM -4.02% 2.68%
General Electric Company NYSE:GE -17.3% 3.97%
Hewlett-Packard Company NYSE:HPQ -41.9% 1.96%
The Home Depot, Inc. NYSE:HD -7.9% 3.1%
Intel Corporation NYSE:INTC -7.85% 4.33%
International Business Machines Corp. NYSE:IBM +8.33% 1.89%
Johnson & Johnson NYSE:JNJ -1.51% 3.6%
JPMorgan Chase & Co. NYSE:JPM -21.2% 2.99%
Kraft Foods Inc. NYSE:KFT +6.47% 3.46%
McDonald’s Corporation NYSE:MCD +14.3% 2.78%
Merck & Co., Inc. NYSE:MRK -13.1% 4.85%
Microsoft Corporation NYSE:MSFT -14% 2.67%
Pfizer Inc. NYSE:PFE +0.9% 4.52%
The Procter & Gamble Company NYSE:PG -4.07% 3.40%
The Travelers Companies, Inc. NYSE:TRV -11.8% 3.34%
United Technologies Corporation NYSE:UTX -14.02% 2.84%
Verizon Communications Inc. NYSE:VZ -2.6% 5.6%
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. NYSE:WMT -3.23% 2.80%
The Walt Disney Company NYSE:DIS -14.6% 1.25%

Just seven out of the 30 Dow component stocks have actually appreciated in value this year. That should give you pause before you invest in a high-profile company solely on the strength of its name and brand.

The Takeaway

Here are three key things I take away from the charts above:

1) Energy is the name of the game. One sector in the Dow has strongly out-performed others in recent years. Namely, oil (ala Chevron and Exxon). And I wouldn’t expect that to change – particularly as fears over inflation mount.

2) Banking stocks have a lot of ground to make up. The fact that JPMorgan Chase is down 16.1 percent over the past 10 years, and Bank of America’s down a whopping 51.8 percent could get you thinking banking stocks have to turn the corner soon. I’d argue there’s a lot of pain for them on the horizon, particularly with the imminent threat of inflation. Banks thrive and dive on interest rates, and all those fixed mortgages BAC’s underwriting at 3 percent could come back to bite them in a high-inflation environment. That’s a big part of why banking stocks have fallen in recent months, and it’s a trend I expect to continue.

3) Follow the macro-trends. If you would have invested $1,000 in gold at the start of 2001, you’d now be holding onto $6,797 in bullion. Energy and inflation are the stories du jour, and your portfolio should reflect that reality. No one can say the next 10 years will play out the same as the past 10, but we can say the demand for oil isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither is our government’s debt problem. You can’t afford to ignore the macro picture anymore, unless, of course, you’re happy rolling the dice in your IRA.

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Top 11 best cloud computing stocks

From ChinaCache to IBM, here’s our guess at the Top 11 best cloud computing stocks of 2011 and 2012.

We’ve come a long way from floppy disks. We have laptops, smartphones and iPads in our hands, and we want to access the same data across all three platforms. More importantly, we don’t want to have to waste time transferring data across platforms.

Enter the cloud – an ineffable server farm in the sky that safely stashes away our data, backs it up and spits it back at us on demand. It’s the next evolution in computing, and it promises to make a lot of companies from start-ups to Dow components a whole lot of cash in the years to come.

Research firm Forrester estimates the cloud computing market will balloon from $41 billion this year to $241 billion in 2020 (per the Wall Street Journal). Clearly, there will be some big winners in the space. Here’s our guess at the Top 11 best cloud computing stocks of 2011 and 2012 in no particular order:

1) Citrix Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTXS).
YTD Performance: +12.8 percent
Citrix surged to a new 52-week high on Monday. With a market cap of $14 billion, it’s one of the largest (nearly) pure-play cloud computing stocks on the market. The company also peddles some of the white collar world’s most well-known cloud software in GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC.

2) Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).
YTD Performance: +1.2 percent
Amazon, which counts Reddit, Foursquare and Quora among its clients, got into the cloud game early, and the company appears committed to maintaining a leadership position in the space – even at the expense of short-term profits. Just last month, Amazon launched its so-called “Cloud Drive.” Targeted at everyday consumers, the online storage space gives users a place to stash MP3s for access anywhere they’ve got a Web connection.

3) Acme Packet, Inc. (NASDAQ:APKT).
YTD Performance: +44.6 percent
Q1 was good for Acme Packet. The company reported record revenue north of $59 million and raised its guidance for the rest of the year. Acme delivers voice, video and multimedia for enterprise-level clients including big dogs like Verizon (NYSE:VZ).

4) ChinaCache International Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ:CCIH).
YTD Performance: -15.7 percent
A fairly new cloud computing offering out of China, ChinaCache hasn’t gotten much love from the street since its debut on the NASDAQ in October. Shares have fallen 35 percent since then. If a rising tide lifts all boats, though, ChinaCache should do well. IDC predicts China’s cloud computing industry will clock a compound annual growth rate of 23.8 percent through 2014.

5) International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM).
YTD Performance: +14.8 percent
IBM has listed cloud computing among it’s top four revenue-growth initiatives (alongside analytics, emerging markets and digitizing infrastructure). The company’s putting its money where its mouth is, too. CEO Sam Palmisano said he plans to use about $20 billion on acquisitions through 2015 with a big chunk of that change allocated specifically to cloud computing (per WRALtechwire). If IBM can’t convince an enterprise-level company to adopt the cloud, no one can.

6) SAVVIS, Inc. (NASDAQ:SVVS).
YTD Performance: +41.2 percent
Word on the street is Savvis might be ripe for the plucking – especially after investors watched Verizon gobble up competitor Terremark Worldwide for $1.4 billion earlier this year. Savvis focuses exclusively on IT solutions for businesses and government agencies.

7) Aruba Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARUN).
YTD Performance: +67.1 percent
Aruba’s emphasis on mobile networks makes its growth prospects particularly attractive. Goldman Sachs reiterated its Buy rating on the stock last month with a price target of $39 – a 14 percent premium over market value.

8) Rackspace Hosting, Inc. (NYSE:RAX).
YTD Performance: +39.8 percent
Looking a multi-year RAX chart is like looking at a ramp that’s pointing at the sky. Shares are up more than 124 percent over the past 12 months. A P/E of 126 might not be justified, but the company appears to be consolidating power as the go-to cloud hosting company in the U.S., and now Rackspace is ready to sink its jaws into Asia (per SeekingAlpha).

9) 21Vianet Group Inc (NASDAQ:VNET).
YTD Performance: -15 percent
The latest cloud computing offering from China to IPO in the U.S., 21Vianet started trading late last week. The company counts some of China’s biggest tech companies among its clients including Tencent, Youku and Taobao. After three days of trading, VNET’s shares have fluctuated between $17.50 and $21. Check out my post Cloud computing in China: Is the 21Vianet IPO a buy? (VNET) for more.

10) VMware, Inc. (NYSE:VMW).
YTD Performance: +7.1 percent
VMware gives companies the ability to build and deploy “virtual” computers for software testing, script automation and data storage. The company recently got a thumbs up from Susquehanna, which raised its price target on the stock to $120 per share on rapid international growth (per SeekingAlpha). That’s about 25 percent higher than VMW’s current share price of $95.

11) Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)
YTD Performance: -10.3 percent
As everyday consumers grow more accustomed to storing and accessing data from the cloud, Google could lead the way. The company’s popular Docs application lets users edit, share and store documents and spreadsheets online. Google’s mobile operating system, Android, will likely strengthen consumers’ ties with their Google accounts. Before we know it, we might be storing everything on Google’s servers with the heaviest users footing the bill for the rest of us.

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